After A Heavy Snow

                                                     By Parker Po-Fei Huang

                                                        A bank of whiteness


                                                           Is all I see. Have I

                                                       tossed away the world

                                                         or the world me? Or

                                                           is it just a single

                                                      moment that I stand on

                                                          a sheer precipice

                                                        with clouds passing

                                                               through me?

                                                      Some mists sweep the

                                                       sky. Some stars elicit

                                                         serenity. I feel that

                                                         I am gathering the

                                                      reflections of a flower

                                                     in the water and that of

                                                     the moon in the mirror—

                                                       no scent, no motion,

                                                        yet I sense eternity.

                                                       I stop breathing lest

                                                       I wake myself. From

                                                      where, of what world,

                                                       have I come here? I

                                                      turn my head and see

                                                     there are only footprints

                                                             that follow me.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

About Parker Po-Fei Huang

Parker Po-Fei Huang was a distinguished Chinese-American professor and poet at Yale who developed the leading method of teaching Cantonese to non-native speakers and authored numerous Mandarin language textbooks used widely on college campuses. His long and varied life aptly reflects the Asian-American immigrant experience in the twentieth century.

Born in 1914 in the city of Guangzhou, Huang Po-Fei was the son of the Qing Dynasty scholar Huang Sung-Ling and his wife, Zhu Xi. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Peking Catholic University in 1937 and spent the war years in Hong Kong, Guilin and Chongqing, serving as editor-in-chief of the Chinese Evening News (Zhongguo Man Bo) and as an editor for the British Consulate in Guilin and Chongqing.

After marrying Chen Baozhen in April 1947, Huang and his new wife immigrated to the United States, settling in San Francisco. He worked for Young China Newspaper while at the same time studying journalism at Stanford University. From 1950-51 he taught Chinese at the Army Language School at Monterey, California. In 1952, during the Korean War, he began an association with Yale University which lasted until his retirement in 1985. Huang helped to pioneer modern Chinese language study in the United States, authoring several textbooks for Mandarin and the first Cantonese textbook and dictionary. He designed and taught the undergraduate Chinese program, supervised graduate student dissertations and directed the Summer Chinese Language Institute. He was an active member of the Yale community, serving as both a fellow in Davenport College and as a deacon at the United Church of Christ at Yale.

In addition to his academic writing, Huang was an accomplished poet, writing primarily in Chinese but also translating ancient and modern Chinese poems into English.
One of his early English poems, Heavenly Mountain, was first published on New Year’s Day in 1958 and was included in the New York Times’ Book of Verse, 1970, and anthology of the Poetry published by the Times in the past fifty years. He also published poetry collections titled “Wind and Sand”, “Heavenly Mountain”, “Dawn”, “Prayers”, “Sincerely”, “Selected Lyric Poems in English and Chinese”, etc. Huang gave many public readings in venues such as the 92nd Street YMCA, the Library of Congress, and West Point. He also gained recognition as a chanter of Classical Cantonese poems, performing in several theatre productions in New Haven and New York City.

Huang is remembered at Yale through the Parker Huang Fellowships, which are awarded each year to students who wish to study language and culture in China and elsewhere around the world. They are given “not because of American successes abroad, but because of our failures and because the international failures of the most powerful country on earth are costly for those who are most powerless.”

Among his other accomplishments and honors, Huang served on the national board of the Chinese Language Teachers’ Association and was a member of Phi Tau Phi, an honors society for Chinese academics. He also was the first director of the Chinese Language Center at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Huang passed away peacefully in his own bed on January 5, 2008 at the age of 94 in Pasadena, California as the result of natural causes. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mabel Pao-Chen Chan Huang, and his two sons, Ben and Alan.


Patty said...

What a beautiful tribute to a very special man. All our best to you, Ben, and your family.
--Patty, Arnold, and Phoebe

Poon yaht sam said...

Many of us who have used Prof. Huang's series of Cantonese textbooks owe a huge debt of gratitude. Those textbooks have been the foundation for our studies.